Welcome to beach week on The Bachelor! Last week was all about pine needles and cozy cabins. The girls ate bugs and almost drank pee. This week is all about Fort Lauderdale, which Arie calls a "beautiful place to fall in love," but I will graciously call a cool place for a weekend trip. The girls squeal over it, though, making a convincing argument for the place. Should I visit Fort Lauderdale?
"There's tons of water, tons of boardwalks, palm trees," Chelsea says during the opening montage. She's very good at listing things she's seen in Fort Lauderdale. The girls, once clad in fleeces and hiking boots, are now in the customary Bachelor uniform: ripped jean shorts and off-the-shoulder tops. It all feels a bit like a return to form — if you thought The Bachelor was going to go off course this season, then you thought wrong. We're right back on the yachts, and there's drama brewing, as per usual. This week provides two distinct one-on-ones and one dramatic group date. The group date, stinky with Krystal drama, consumes the episode a bit, which is a shame because the one-on-ones were more illuminating than their forebears.
The first date goes to Chelsea — the one good at lists! — who was actually a villain during episode one. In a very non-Bachelor move, Arie skips the date card and just asks Chelsea on a date. This took me by surprise, and Goddamnit, I think I like Arie again! I mean, maybe Chris Harrison just didn't feel like writing out the date card this week. Or perhaps the PA who usually delivered the card slept in that morning. Either way, Arie — wearing pale blue shorts, mind you — is looking and acting casual. Compared to The Bachelor's usual stiffness, Arie's nonchalance is unavoidably attractive. (I am fully on the Arie boat now! Welcome aboard, we're handing out pale blue shorts!)
Chelsea's date is a weird one, if only because Chelsea's narrative veered a bit in the past weeks. This show marketed Chelsea as the vicious cougar at first. She was a mother, and her strategy was pure ruthlessness. She even got the first impression rose, causing a generous amount of ire in the house. But then, Krystal took over. These days, in comparison to her blond contemporary, Chelsea seems well-liked. There was a moment last week when Marikh confronted her about "glam-shaming," but other than that, Chelsea's cool. She's not involved with drama. And, as of this date, she seems more nervous than she was on the first night.
She and Arie go a-yachting, for which I thanked my lucky stars because I was worried we wouldn't see a yacht this season. They yacht, they jet ski, and they end up at a car museum, because this show has to remind us that Arie is still slightly cooler than a real estate agent. At the museum, Chelsea tells him that the date would have been fun even if it weren't on a yacht, which feels important. A lot of Bachelor conversations revolve around the glamour of the unfolding events. We went parasailing! The contestants exclaim. And, somewhere between a blimp ride and too many mimosas, contestants feel just dazzled enough to fall in love. So, Chelsea's admission is anti-Bachelor and pro-love. She reiterates her motto: She's a mother. She must be efficient. She needs to find out if Arie's the one. This is a mission both Arie and I respect, although this process seems pretty inefficient for now. Arie says the words "independent woman" at least fourteen times and, lo and behold, Chelsea gets the rose — and then there's yet another awkward concert. (This is number three for this season, y'all!)
I don't want to commend the Bachelor producers for giving us another lonely concert. I do, however, want to commend them on getting a woman musician, Tenille Arts, and I in turn want to commend her eyebrows and eyeshadow for stealing this whole episode. Tenille, I will remember the blend on your upper crease for at least the next few months.
Then, there's that group date. Group dates are always meant to sow discord, I suppose, and they grow tiring after episode three. For this date, the girls go bowling. But first, Arie licks a bowling ball, because "The Kissing Bandit" applies also when Arie interacts with inanimate objects. There's some questionable editing in this segment — okay, who keeps getting strikes? Are the editors using the same shot of a strike over and over again to convince me these people are actually good at bowling? — as well as some questionable beer. Arie pours the beers like the good casual Bachelor that he is, and the girls actually seem to be having fun. (During this segment, I remarked softly to myself, "Is bowling fun? Should I be bowling more often?" The Bachelor is a very introspective activity.)
But then, the competition begins. Once again, we are inundated with Krystal drama. Krystal is fake, the girls say. Krystal gives annoying toasts, the girls say. From my perspective, Krystal started this date on a good note. She seemed like she was having a good time. The attitude of the other girls towards Krystal always feels a little odd because, simply, Krystal doesn't do anything that criminal. Her cardinal offense in this episode is that she throws a tantrum on the bus on the way back from bowling, something that occurred totally off-camera. Granted, the tantrum is weird. Krystal is upset when Arie reneges his decision to exclude the losing team from the cocktail party. This is a common Bachelor practice; I was surprised when Arie changed the rules. This upset Krystal, who decided to stay in her bathrobe during the party. I would like to note at this point that staying at the hotel in a bathrobe alone — away from this gaggle of de facto friends/enemies — seems preferable to a cocktail party, but to refuse time with Arie is to break the Bachelor rules. The ensuing drama is annoying, but sensible. The girls are upset because Arie goes to comfort Krystal. Arie is upset because he has to comfort Krystal. Krystal is upset because she's now on Arie's bad side.
"Aw, this is our first fight," she says later at the cocktail party, just after Arie's scolded her for essentially throwing a pity party.
"This might be our last fight," he says reproachfully. For someone who is the "fun dad" Bachelor, these are harsh words.
The other one-on-one goes to Tia, who emerges as a definite frontrunner with this episode. Sadly, her date is sandwiched between two Krystal episodes, so it almost flies under the radar. Tia's date is decidedly Florida — and not glam Florida. She and Arie head out into the swamps on an Everglade fan boat. In the swamps, they peep an alligator, a turtle, and a man named Gerald who built his own swamp house. Gerald also makes deep fried corn on the cob and frog legs. Gerald should be the next Bachelor.
Tia's always been good on camera. Perhaps we can credit her friendship with Raven Gates for that. Here, she's charming, bashful, and confident, all at once, making a strong case for her being the next Bachelorette. She and Arie also have a fairly serious conversation. She confides that she thought she'd be married by now; he shares the same. They sound like weathered twenty-somethings (thirty somethings, in Arie's case) complaining about dating apps. The conversation is familiar. Tia concludes that she's falling in love with Arie, which may be true, but more importantly, Bachelor fans are falling in love with Tia. Tia, you catch frogs back home and you work with the elderly for a living. Leave this real estate agent in Scottsdale where he belongs.
The final rose ceremony replays what happened at the group date. Krystal, shattered by her group date failure, confronts the girls who have been talking about her. (Really, I am getting sick of the Krystal impressions. Everyone, do yourself a favor and stop making fun of people's voices.) Kendall then has a conversation with Krystal where she reveals that she thinks Krystal isn't on the show for Arie. Then, Bekah has a conversation with Krystal. These are all moments when we could be watching Ashley do something. Ashley has been the Diggy Moreland of this season: She's stunning and seems even-keeled, but she doesn't say a word on camera. I would demand more of Ashley, but she is no longer. (Bachelor Winter Games, please!) I'd also love more time with Kendall, who asked poor Arie if he would ever eat another human's flesh. While we're at it, I would also like more Jacqueline time, but The Bachelor is my casino, and the villains are the house: They always win.
The Dearly Departed: Ashley, Maquel, and Marikh
Lauren Count: Lauren B., the last Lauren standing, appears to be a front runner. Also she takes coconut milk in her coffee, which should be a red flag. (Arie, wake up!!!)
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misnamed the country artist who performed on Chelsea's date. Tenille Arts, performed, not Tenille Townes.
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